CinemaCon: 3D’s new dimension

Scorsese, Lee assert format is the future even for serious films

For years many have said that 3D works “for the right kind of movies” — that’s the refrain from talking heads at confabs like CinemaCon. But the definition of the “right” movies seems to be expanding.

Martin Scorsese moved that needle last year with “Hugo.” Ang Lee looks to follow with “The Life of Pi,” an adaptation of Yann Martel’s fable that unspools in 3D on Christmas weekend.

The two directors appeared onstage together Wednesday at CinemaCon and took the unequivocal position that very soon, 3D will be the standard not just for the “right” films but for all films. Scorsese, Lee and Baz Luhrmann are among filmmakers taking the format beyond tentpole fare. Luhrmann’s 3D footage from “The Great Gatsby” was warmly received at the confab, even without the benefit of color correction or vfx.

“Right now, we still need an excuse to watch 3D. Someday we won’t need those excuses,” said Lee, who lamented that “big” movies take priority over “smart” movies in the format. But that’s quickly changing.

“I just think you have to accept it as a part of storytelling,” Scorsese said, asserting that 2D projection will eventually go the way of black-and-white — used primarily as a stylistic choice — as auds will soon acclimate to depth even in indie films.

Scorsese said depth was one of the elements that even the earliest filmmakers desired, and technology has finally caught up. When making “Hugo,” the helmer had his production team watch Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 3D thriller “Dial M for Murder.”

“It was this whole other approach to something that was not a horror genre, that was literally a stage play in 3D,” he said. “I decided I wanted to go more that way (with ‘Hugo’).”

As more dramas follow in the footsteps of “Hugo,” Peter Jackson has planted his flag on the next cinematic innovation: higher frame rates, which have been the talk of this year’s CinemaCon.

Scorsese said he did not see the 48 frames-per-second demonstration of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” that divided viewers at Caesars — but he defended it sight unseen, comparing it to the change from nitrate to regular black-and-white film — another cinematic evolution that was initially controversial.

“It’s how you can accept that image,” Scorsese said, noting that younger, digitally native auds won’t be put off by 48 fps’ hyper-real sharpness. “And also, you can do anything you want (in post-production) with that image at that level of clarity, can’t you?”

What Jackson does with the sparkling-clear footage he showed at CinemaCon will largely determine the pace of acceptance of the format that doubles the industry-standard 24 fps, and Warner Bros. stressed that what was shown Tuesday was untouched by the rigors of frame-by-frame corrections.

Though the arrival of 48 fps largely overshadowed the tired-out 3D conversation this week, Lee said the format still has a long way to go before it hits its maximum potential. “Every three months, you’re behind,” he said. “We’re guinea pigs. We’re filmmakers. The obstacles are still big, but I do believe there’s something else there — something new.

“I think people need to understand that 3D is its own artform,” Lee added. “It’s a new film language.”